Anyone who follows running knows the Boston Marathon was Monday. I don’t actually follow running, but Twitter and the blogosphere were all abuzz about it. Because of this, I read far more about the event than I ever planned.
My biggest takeaway from my (albeit limited) reading is that, generally speaking, people find the winners to be very inspiring. I want to preface what I am about to say by emphatically stating that it is no way meant to show disrespect for the training and athleticism of the winners.
With that out of the way, here we go. I do not find elite marathon race winners inspiring. Phew, that felt good to get off my chest, but also a little bit uncomfortable because there is a lot of talk out there about how inspirational these runners are. But, if you have been reading since my very first post, you’ll recall that I don’t go for the typical brand of inspiration. Also, this is my own personal opinion.
So let me explain the very simple reason I do not find these marathon winners inspiring: they make me feel badly about my running and their times are so completely unattainable to me that they have virtually no meaning. I mean, seriously, the top female finished in 2:29:18 and the top male finished in 2:12:45 (which, by the way, one press outlet described as a “very modest” time to which I say “are you kidding me????”). These times are only marginally longer than my half marathon time.
Let’s take a closer look at this. If I do the math on these types of marathon times, I would have to run almost twice as fast over twice the distance. No matter how hard I train, this will never happen for me. Ever. I get that these are elite athletes whereas I am a casual runner but even Malcolm Gladwell’s 10000 hours isn’t meant to lead from my level of marginal running competence to that level of running mastery.
Who do I find inspiring then? I am more inspired by the person who picks up running one day and less than a year later runs a 4:30 marathon. I’m amazed by the working mother who finds time to train and run a sub-3 marathon. I’m in awe of the 60-year old who trains for and completes his or her first marathon. I like the underdog and the everyperson. Entirely unattainable feats of human endurance, on the other hand, make me want to give up running entirely in favour of a more realistic competitive endeavor for my talents which, if I had to guess, would likely land in the camp of competitive ice cream eating.
And so, while I say hats off to the Boston Marathon champions and deeply respect their discipline and obvious talent, I am keeping my inspirational figures a little closer to my own level of capability. Here’s to being inspired by the every-day runner who dares to tackle the marathon or ultra!